Precision timekeeping with an all-new silicon oscillator and 40Hz mechanical movement

With the recent unveiling of its new Slimline Monolithic Manufacture, Swiss watchmaker Frederique Constant has notched up another technological breakthrough in the world of precision timekeeping. The Slimline Monolithic ticks ten times faster than most mechanical movements, thereby delivering much higher levels of precision as compared to other mechanical watches. Its silicon high-frequency oscillator enhances the efficiency of the watch’s mechanical movement, which is housed in a 40mm case, with an aperture on the dial that allows the wearer to see the oscillator in action.

For more than 200 years, mechanical watches have relied on ‘sprung balance’ for timekeeping. In simple terms, this consists of a thin, coiled spring attached to a balance wheel, allowing it to oscillate back and forth at a constant frequency, thereby controlling the movement of the watch’s minutes and hours hands. While this has worked very well for ages, mechanical watch movements are evolving and improving; flexible mechanisms are the next big thing in watchmaking.

Frederique Constant

Given the elastic properties of materials like silicon, it is now possible to create compact, precise, single-piece components that can replace some of the mechanical assemblies of the past. The Slimline Monolithic Manufacture uses Frederique Constant’s one such flexible, jointless structure in the design of its monocrystalline silicon oscillator, which allows the mechanical movement to tick at an amazing 288,000 vibrations per hour (or 40Hz). This is ten times faster than most other mechanical watches and makes for consistently accurate timekeeping.

The mechanism’s efficiency allows the watch to deliver an impressive 80-hour power reserve despite the high-speed frequency. Working quietly behind the scenes is the watch’s completely new automatic calibre FC-810 movement, which has been designed to work with the highspeed 40Hz regulator. With regular mechanical watch movements, the second’s hand makes eight moves to complete one second. With the FC-810 movement, the second’s hand performs 80 moves per second, resulting in the smoothest possible movement ever.

Peter Stas, co-founder and former CEO of Frederique Constant, collaborated with Dr Nima Tolou, founder and CEO of Flexous (a horology-oriented tech branch of YES!Delft, a Dutch technology incubator), to come up with the idea of the new silicon oscillator that underlies the Slimline Monolithic’s stellar performance. The brief was to stick to a compact size that would fit inside a standard mechanical movement, operate at the highest possible frequency and remain cost-effective. And it’s mission accomplished on all counts.

The Frederique Constant Slimline Monolithic Manufacture is available with a 40mm case, an elegant dial with a stamped hobnail pattern, printed Roman numerals paired with Breguet-style hands and the pulsating oscillator aperture at 6 o’clock. A transparent case back lets one see the automatic FC810 calibre movement. The model is available in three limited editions: 810 pieces in stainless steel with a blue dial, 810 pieces in stainless steel with a silver colour dial and 81 pieces in 18k pink gold.

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